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Radioactive bacteria targets metastatic pancreatic cancer

Posted by: Research 23 July 2013

Researchers in the US have developed a therapy for pancreatic cancer that uses a particular kind of bacteria called Listeria to selectively infect tumour cells and deliver radioisotopes (commonly used in cancer therapy) into them.

The experimental treatment dramatically decreased the number of metastases (cancers that have spread to other parts of the body) in a mouse model of highly aggressive pancreatic cancer without harming healthy tissue. 

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was carried out by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York.

Co-senior author Claudia Gravekamp, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein who studies new approaches to treating metastatic cancer comments, 

"We're encouraged that we've been able to achieve a 90 percent reduction in metastases in our first round of experiments. With further improvements, our approach has the potential to start a new era in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer."

The idea for this study started several years earlier when scientists noticed that a weakened lab form of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes can infect cancer cells but not healthy normal cells. 

Clara Mackay, acting chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK comments,

"It is important to note this research has only been conducted in a mouse model but the results of this preliminary study are interesting. We will be keen to see what future developments might arise from this area of work and whether it might be able to be assessed in patients."

Read the full press release.